February 25th, 2024

Reality Check

Why Do Palestinians Want Both Statehood and 'Occupation?'

Jonathan Tobin

By Jonathan Tobin

Published Dec. 29, 2014

 Why Do Palestinians Want Both Statehood and 'Occupation?'

Mastering the method to the madness would go far in improving -- and saving -- countless lives

Today, the Hamas terrorists who rule the Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza once again demonstrated their lack of concern for the subjects by denying a group of war orphans a chance to spend a week in Israel.

Their reason: doing so would involve the teens visiting "occupied cities" and "settlements" and would undermine their effort to perpetuate a century-old war against Zionism.

That Hamas would continue to rail against "occupation" while enjoying virtual sovereignty over part of the country is no contradiction. It actually dovetails nicely with the stand of their Fatah rivals who are seeking recognition of Palestinian statehood in the United Nations this week while also clinging to an "occupation" that allows them to avoid making peace.

Some will harp on the casual cruelty of denying a break to schoolchildren who have been harmed by war and who could use a chance to get out of the claustrophobic strip. But that would be a mistake.

The key issue here is not the Islamist group's insensitivity or even its reflexive hostility to Israel. Rather, it is the language used in explaining its decision to turn the bus with the 37 orphans back from the border:

"Security forces prevented 37 children of martyrs from entering the land occupied in 1948 for a suspicious visit to a number of settlements and occupied cities," wrote Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Iyad Al-Bozom on Facebook Sunday. "This move came in order to safeguard our children's education and protect them from the policy of normalization."

Hamas's harping on the occupied places that the orphans who were invited by Israel's Kibbutz movement and two Israeli Arab towns is telling in that the places the kids were going to visit were not part of what the world is told is "occupied territory." Indeed, every place on their itinerary was Israeli territory prior to the Six Day War in June 1967.

For Hamas, "occupation" refers to any land on which the Jewish state may exist regardless of where its borders might be drawn.

In this way, they make it clear that their "resistance" against "occupation" is not a protest about the West Bank or Jerusalem but a sign of their determination to wage war on Israel until it is destroyed.

This renders moot if not absurd the conviction held by some on the Jewish left as well as the Obama administration that peace could still be obtained by an Israeli decision to trade land for peace.

Yet while this speaks volumes about the foolishness of those who believe Hamas is prepared to make peace, it should not be viewed as fundamentally different from the position of the Palestinian Authority as it tries to get the UN Security Council to vote to recognize their independence in all of the lands that Israel took during the Six Day War.

As the Times of Israel noted in a feature published on Friday, the PA is in the interesting position of demanding formally recognition of their sovereign rights while also insisting that all of that land — even areas that Israel does not control such as Gaza or those parts of the West Bank that are under PA rule — are "occupied."

This contradicts legal norms about statehood that can be accorded only to those that actually control the territory in question. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and his followers say they merely wish to reverse the usual order so as to facilitate Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and even parts of Jerusalem where hundreds of thousands of Jews live in Jewish neighborhoods that have existed for decades.

But this stand actually has much in common with the less presentable positions articulated by Hamas than is generally understood.

Had Abbas and the PA wanted a state they could have had one 14 years ago or the two other times when one was offered them by Israel under terms that are no different than those supported currently by the Obama administration and the Europeans.

They are going to the UN not because they wish to actually have a state but because their desire is to avoid negotiations that might give them one if they were ever willing to actually sign a peace agreement with the Israelis.

Just like Hamas, which rails against "occupation" while governing what is functionally a Palestinian state, Abbas clings to policies that keep the status quo in place while still railing against it. The reason is that although its leader is wrongly proclaimed by Washington as a champion of peace, he and his movement are as committed to Israel's destruction as Hamas. Accepting a state in the West Bank (with or without Hamas-ruled Gaza which would constitute a second Palestinian state) means not so much ending the "occupation" of that area as it does accepting that the parts of the country that are left to Israel must be considered part of a Jewish state and that the conflict is therefore ended for all time.

Until Fatah is willing to do that, its talk of statehood at the UN must be considered to be no different than Hamas' blatant rejection of peace on any terms.

And the sooner Western nations catch on to this fact and stop enabling the PA's evasions, the better it will be for Palestinians and their children who need peace more than an unending and bloody war against Zionism.

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JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of Commentary magazine, in whose blog "Contentions" this first appeared.